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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Holiday hiring in full swing

It’s not even Halloween yet, but holiday hiring is in full swing for many retailers — and the prospects are downright scary for stores and job seekers alike.

Anxious retailers are gambling on the right number of employees to hire, and a huge number of job applicants are desperate for work.

Holiday sales are expected to be down 1 percent from last year. That means retailers must find the right balance: hiring enough seasonal workers to serve customers, but not so many that paying them eats up profits.

Job Web site found that retailers on average plan to hire 3.1 seasonal employees this year — 16 percent less than last year, according to a survey the company hired Ipsos Public Affairs to conduct.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based consulting company, is more optimistic. The company doesn’t forecast numbers but said retailers may hire more workers this year than last year simply because 2008 saw the lowest seasonal employment growth in nearly 20 years.

Stores like to hire early so workers are trained and ready by Thanksgiving. Many — such as RadioShack, Brookstone and Sur La Table— are well into their hiring processes.

Other retailers trying to keep costs down aren’t hiring at all: 53 percent of managers in the survey said they don’t plan to hire any seasonal workers.

But other retailers are forging ahead with optimism.

Sur La Table, a store that sells kitchen and dining products, is one of them.

The Seattle-based company announced last week it plans to double its staff for the holidays by hiring more than 2,000 seasonal workers. That is “”significantly”” more workers than the company hired last year, said spokeswomanSusanna Linse.

She said the retailer is benefitting from a shift in consumer behavior: More people are saving money by cooking at home, and they need supplies. Also, many are giving homemade goodies as gifts this year, and they are cutting back on purchases at coffee shops by buying their own coffee and espresso makers.

“”We feel like we’re in a good position to go into the fourth quarter and to be able to hire,”” Linse said. “”The one thing we don’t want to do is to cut our customer service.””

Other retailers are reporting more applicants, too. said applications in September for seasonal jobs were up 25 percent when compared to last year.

For stores, that’s a good thing, allowing them to pick the best workers and save on advertising, Knaack said.

For job applicants, it’s depressing.

Sherrill Ameyof Fresno, Calif., has been looking for work ever since she was laid off from her job as an in-home health aide last year. She’s applying for permanent work — and seasonal work, with the hope it could turn into a permanent position.

Although she ideally wants a full-time job in a machine shop, she’s also hoping retail experience she had over a decade ago as a teen can help her get a seasonal job. She’s applied at Dollar Tree and other places, but finds either they’re not hiring or the competition is too stiff.

“”A lot of people are accepting whatever they can get because the economy is so bad,”” she said.

Likewise,Steve Stephensof Fresno said he’s looking for a second job to supplement his income as a group home manager.

“”I’m just looking for whatever is open,”” he said.

But there’s also good news for job seekers.

Just because an applicant hasn’t heard back from a job they applied for weeks ago doesn’t mean they were rejected, saidJohn Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Some retailers are collecting applications and waiting until later in the season when they know exactly how many workers they’ll need to hire.

Others say retail experience isn’t always a job applicant’s most important attribute.

“”Experience is helpful, but not required,”” saidRodger Rosenberg, RadioShack’s recruiting manager for five western states.

He would much rather have someone who has strong customer-service skills and is “”willing to walk up to a big, bad scary stranger when they walk into the store and say, ‘How are you doing? What can I help you with?'””

Every year, seasonal jobs are a way for retailers to test potential permanent workers. With an economic rebound coming, that may happen more than ever this year, said Richmond, Va.-based’s senior Vice President of marketingCathy McCarthy.

This year, employers in the survey said they’ll likely hire 51 percent of seasonal hires for permanent positions, up from 46 percent last year. For that reason and others, McCarthy encourages job seekers to stay upbeat and as professional as possible.

“”Take this just as seriously as you would a career full-time search,”” she said.


(c) 2009, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.).

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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